I first stumbled upon Saratoga Springs, NY about five or six years ago when I was going with my husband to Glens Falls to watch our local high school basketball team play in the state championship games. We drove through Saratoga Springs to get there, and we could tell the town had such a cute, resort feel, that we knew we wanted to come back sometime. When the team returned to states a few years after that, we stayed in Saratoga Springs instead, and sure enough, it was a great time! There was so much to do though, that I only got a small taste of it at that time, so when my sister had to go to Saratoga for a work conference last year and this year, I jumped at the chance of going with her to keep her company!
Saratoga Springs is about 30 minutes from Albany, and about 3 hours from NYC, so it’s become a popular summer retreat for the wealthy from these areas, as well as a common conference destination. It actually became well known hundreds of years ago for their unique mineral water. People would come from all over to bathe in the waters, as they were believed to have special healing properties. To this day, bathing in the waters is thought to help with a variety of ailments. The other thing Saratoga is known for is their horse races. The Saratoga Race Course, which opened in 1863, is the oldest continually operating horse track in America. I have yet to actually get here when they’re in season, but that’s still on my to do list!
As soon as I knew I’d be coming back to Saratoga Springs this year, I began working on our itinerary. As our husbands well know, and often whine about, my sister and I don’t believe in a relaxing vacation. Whenever we go anywhere, we spend days mapping out an activity filled itinerary. We pretty much go non-stop from morning to night. We even came into town a couple days before her conference started, so we could have extra time to sight see, especially for her since she would be stuck in the conference for some of it.
We stayed at The Gideon Putnam Resort and Spa, which is where her conference, and most others, are held. It is located on the grounds of a state park, and if you’re into nature and outdoor activities, you’ll find the scenery beautiful. Also, if you’re someone who enjoys historical places, you’ll probably love this place, which describes itself as a “boutique” hotel. For me, however, “boutique” usually is code for old and in need of updating. And I have to say, that was somewhat the case here. We knew what we were getting into though, as we had stayed here for her conference last year, and we chose to forego a more modern hotel in town for the convenience of being where the conference was. So I expected some minor details to not be up to my usual standards, but what I didn’t expect was a ladybug infestation and customer service that left a lot to be desired.
When my sister called to make the reservations, she asked about the discount code she had been given for booking as part of her conference. However, because we wanted to book a large suite and not a regular room, they wouldn’t let us use the code. Obviously we didn’t expect to get a suite for the price of a regular room, but I don’t see why, if they were giving say a 10% discount on one type of room, we couldn’t get the same 10% discount on another type. But we understood that this was totally our choice to upgrade (ok, my choice…I’m the high-maintenance one), so we didn’t argue or think much more about it at the time. Little did we know, this was a sign of things to come regarding their customer service.
Part of the “charm” of this old hotel is old-fashioned wooden windows and doors. The old, paned type of windows that you can lift open and don’t have screens. As soon as we checked in and went up to our room, we saw a ton of ladybugs around the room, especially near the windows. There were also a couple of grasshopper looking bugs as well. It was totally gross. Now as I mentioned, this is on the grounds of a wooded state park, so I understand you’re going to have some bugs in the area. But what was really crazy was they had tried to stuff Kleenex in the gaps of the windows to keep the bugs out, which was obviously how they were getting in. We told the front desk about it, and they said they’d have someone take care of it. Taking care of it, however, meant putting duct tape all around the seams of the windows. I understand they want to keep their “boutique” feel, but when it gets to the point that you’re using Kleenex and duct tape to keep the bugs out, it might be time for some updating! Again, if it wasn’t for the fact that the conference was right there, I would’ve left immediately due to this alone.
The second area that could use some improvement is their housekeeping schedule, or lack thereof. I always try to leave my hotel room for awhile in the morning to give housekeeping a chance to clean without me being in the way. Well the one morning I stayed away the whole morning, other than going up a couple times to check if they came, and they still hadn’t come by the time I had to go to my spa appointment at 2pm. So the next morning I figured I’d sleep in a little bit, and by the time I got done showering and getting ready to leave the room at 11am, they had already left a note under the door saying they weren’t going to service my room because I had the do not disturb sign still up! I also saw them still on the floor cleaning rooms that afternoon, so it seems absurd that they would leave me that note by 11am.
The third complaint I had was also in the area of customer service. Their checkout time is at 11am, but my sister’s conference wasn’t going to get out until noon. We asked if we could have an hour later to checkout, but they said no, and the latest they would give us was 11:30. I have asked for extended checkouts at numerous hotels before, and NEVER has anyone ever said no. In fact, most hotels even say to just ask if you need a later time. I understand that they probably had more conferences coming in to start that day, but if you’re gearing your hotel to host conferences, you probably should hire more maids, or do whatever you need to do to allow for a noon checkout and faster turnover of rooms, since that’s when conferences often end on the final day.
On a good note, the best part of this resort is definitely their spa. The Roosevelt Baths and Spa is one of the places you can go in town to take a mineral bath. I did a body rejuvenation wrap along with a mineral bath, and it was wonderful! The last time I was here I did both of these services, along with a facial as well. Both times were a very relaxing, enjoyable experience, and the estheticians I had each time were very friendly and helpful. I highly recommend giving this spa a try if you’re ever in the area. They offer a full range of spa services, and I’m sure they’re all great!
Besides the spa, one of my favorite things to do is Saratoga Springs is to try new restaurants. For a town that’s on the smaller side, there is definitely not a shortage of restaurants. I have now been here a few times, and I still haven’t come close to trying all there is to try. One thing I recommend doing though, is calling to verify the hours of the establishments you’re planning on going to. Since this is a very seasonal place, and more geared toward summer tourists, some of the places close or lessen their hours in the off season. And apparently they don’t bother to update their websites, which we found out the hard way. A couple of my favorite places were The Brook Tavern (best ribs I have ever had), The Thirsty Owl (a super cute winery and bistro), Salt and Char (very good filet), and The Local Pub and Teahouse (great for a late night bite). Not only did these places have good food, but they also had some of the friendliest staff that we encountered on this trip. Especially The Local Pub and Teahouse, where the super nice bartender graciously offered to let us order from their full menu even though it was almost time for them to stop serving (their website stated different hours, and we were just looking for a snack though, after being ignored by other places whose websites were inaccurate).
Which leads me to the not-so-friendly places. We attempted to go to about three other places that advertised as having nightly entertainment and snacks, only to find that the information must’ve been outdated. But to make matters worse, when we walked into these places, they didn’t even acknowledge us or ask if they could help us. They either didn’t even have anyone at the hostess stand at all, or the people who were there simply watched us stand there looking confused, and didn’t even say a word to us. This happened to us at Saratoga City Tavern, One Caroline, and Cantina. Now I am the last person who knowingly shows up at a restaurant right before closing time, as I don’t want to be that annoying person, but these places either had incorrect hours posted on their websites, were bars that were still open and serving drinks, and/or still technically had about half an hour left before their true closing time. So the fact that no one could even acknowledge us, or even bother to explain that we were too late, was just rude. So although these looked like fun places to try based on what I saw online, I’d have no desire to give them my business on a future visit.
In between a lot of eating, we also did a few other fun activities that the area has to offer. We went to a comedy show at The Comedy Works, did some gambling at the casino, and went on a couple ghost tours, one of which was at the Yaddo Gardens, which I am told is especially beautiful during the summer season. We obviously weren’t really expecting to run into any ghosts, but these tours are always a good way of learning a lot of interesting history about an area. We also stopped at a couple places that have my favorite treats – The Candy Company, home of the original peppermint pig, and Kilwin’s, my all time favorite ice cream. All in all, despite the few hiccups, this was a very fun trip, and I look forward to my next visit to Saratoga Springs.